Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tough meal for a grizzly

Every spring in Yellowstone park grizzly bears awaken from hibernation and leave their dens feeling very hungry. While the bears were sleeping other animals like bison and elk were awake and doing their best to sustain themselves throughout the harsh winter.

Each winter many elk and bison don't make it and die for various reasons. Some of them fall through the ice while attempting to cross frozen rivers and lakes. The carcasses of these winter casualties then serve as an important food source for the bears each spring.

This grizzly bear has located a bison carcass in the middle of the Yellowstone River near LeHardy Rapids. I saw the bear from my car and stopped to photograph it. When I pulled up to the established parking area there was already a park ranger at the scene. I took my camera and found a good vantage point among the tourists watching the bear.

Here the bear is shaking off as it climbs onto the whitened carcass.

Although the bear is equipped with sharp claws and powerful jaws it still had great difficulty penetrating the dead bison's hide

Every so often the bear would stop and take stock of the growing crowd of people watching it.

The carcass seemed to be lodged on some rocks and the bear showed good balance as it was able to stay on while it bobbed in the current.

Again the bear surveys the crowd watching from the nearby shoreline.

Eventually the bear was able to use its teeth to make a hole in the thick hide and get a little to eat.

After awhile the grizzly stopped attempting to feed. I think it had had enough of people watching it.

With that the bear got off the carcass, swam to the opposite shore, and walked up into the forest.

A day or two later just after dawn I watched a grizzly bear again out on this carcass. it was too dark for photos so I watched from my car with the windows down. There were no other people around and I couldn't tell if it was the same bear or not.

Apparently the carcass still wasn't open enough for the bear to feed easily. The bear worked at the carcass while standing in the water and on top of it. After the bear pushed, bit and ripped at the carcass, it broke free from the rocks it had been lodged on. The carcass and the grizzly bear then started to float downstream.

With the windows open I could hear as the bear made what I thought were frustrated and unhappy sounds as it held onto its meal while being dragged along with the current. After going a short distance the carcass again got caught in some rocks and the bear left it and swam to the opposite shore. The grizzly then walked into the trees and I could no longer see it.

With that I left to go and photograph some locations that the sun had already reached. I returned later after the sun was high enough to light that stretch of river and found only the carcass, but no bear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool bear! Nice photos thanks